The Curious Case of the Chinese Chest by Samantha McDermott

The Curious Case of the Chinese ChestThe Curious Case of the Chinese Chest is a thriller disguised as a cozy mystery. The quirky, likeable but questionable characters are led by Cindy, the protagonist, who discovers a burglar in her home and engages him in a war of wits. Soon she finds herself sucked into a treasure hunt for her aunt Daphne’s prized possessions. Like so many quests, the story is full of unexpected twists, turns and an extremely satisfying ending.

 

Chapter 1

Cindy leaned over the balcony and watched the intruder systematically go through her desk and then her bookshelves. It wasn’t a TV search where everything gets thrown on the floor. He was very careful. He removed the books one at a time, riffled them and put them back in place.

“You’re very neat,” she finally said. The young man froze. “I appreciate that since I’m the one who’ll have to clean up after you. Can I help you find something?”

“And you’re very polite. Aren’t you supposed to scream and call the police?”

“I already called the police, and I don’t often scream.”

“Surely this is a special case. Or are you accustomed to having searches carried on when you are supposed to be asleep?”

“I only remember one other. He was messy. That’s why I complimented you.”

“Since you called the police, I guess I should be going.”

“I didn’t really. I was just curious to see how you would react if you thought I had.”

“Now that your curiosity is satisfied, I still think I should go. This is taking longer than I expected. You have a lot of books.”

“You needn’t sound cross about it. I didn’t buy them with an eye to making it difficult for burglars. Are you going to tell me what you’re looking for?”

“I don’t think so. You might go put it in a safety deposit box or something.”

“I think you should tell me. You broke into my house, interrupted my sleep and generally ruined my night. You sort of owe me.”

He crossed to the sofa and sat. “Do you keep anything on hand to give thirsty burglars to drink?”

“Like what?”

“A dry martini would be nice. Or a beer. I’d even settle for a coke.”

“Cokes are bad for you.”

“That’s why it was my third choice.”

“Okay, I’m coming down. Don’t pull out a gun or a knife and ruin this moment.” She started down the stairs.

“I don’t have a knife or a gun.”

“That’s what you’d say, of course. Then you might jump me and say I shouldn’t have been stupid enough to believe you.”

“True.”

“Should I warn you I have a black belt in karate?”

“Do you?”

“No!”

“Then I wouldn’t if I were you. It might sound like a challenge and I’d have to whip out my knife or gun.”

“Do you have a gun? I don’t see one.”

“Not with me. I didn’t expect karate champs to appear to stop me.”

“Do you have a weapon of choice?”

“Not really.”

“Are you following me into the kitchen or am I waiting on you? I’m not real sure of the protocol with burglars.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll stay here and go through a few more books.”

“As you wish.”

Cindy looked at the chilled white wine in her fridge and reached for ice and a coke. Just because Ralph had stood her up on their dinner date didn’t mean she should give his wine to this attractive stranger. Attractive? Where had that come from? As she took the coke into the living room, she heard a little exclamation of surprise.

“Find it?” she asked.

“Yeah, I did, hidden in the World Atlas. That’s a silly place to hide a map.”

“Oh, that’s what you were looking for. If you’d told me, I’d have given it to you. And I think an atlas is a very good place for a map. You didn’t think of it, did you?”

“That’s true. I almost skipped it on the shelf. It seemed too obvious.”

“Evidently that’s what the other guy thought.”

“Would you consider telling me about this other guy? Was he looking for the map?”

“I don’t know. I think he might have been a hired gun, although I don’t know if he actually had a gun either. He seemed very professional and made an awful mess. Quite smarmy looking as I recall!”

“Did you talk to him? I’m assuming you didn’t call the police on him either.”

“Actually I did, and I stayed out of it. By the time they came, sirens blasting, he was long gone. I got the sense that they didn’t believe me. I had most of the books put away. No one was hurt. Police don’t seem really interested until there’s blood on the carpet, do they? I had expected them to come right away and capture him and find out what it was about. They were a great disappointment. That’s why I didn’t call them tonight, or is it morning? I thought they would think I was one of those women who call the police when they get bored or lonely. Then if I called some night to say that someone had appeared with a knife and a gun, they’d think ‘oh, it’s her again’ and not come at all.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works.”

“Well…would you like a glass of white wine? It’s supposed to be very good. I have it in the fridge and I think I’ll open it. There’s cold salmon, too, if you’re hungry. I was supposed to have a dinner guest and he canceled.”

“I like red wine better.”

“So do I, but that’s not what I’m offering.”

“Okay, sure. Do you usually stay up all night talking to strangers?”

“No, of course not. Usually if I’m up, I turn on TV and watch old movies.”

“I do that, too. I’m becoming quite an old movie buff.”

“Then, too, sometimes there’s an interesting special. I saw one on tattooing one night/morning. Did you by any chance see that? Of course not. I don’t know why I mentioned it.”

“Yeah. I did see it. I remember one lady had had a breast removed and turned her chest into a work of art, all flowers and stuff.”

“That was good. Turning something bad into something good.”

“Must have been pretty painful. I’ve never been tattooed. Have you?”

“That’s very personal. I don’t think I know you well enough to answer.”

“So you do.”

“No, I don’t, but it is not yet any of your business.”

“When would it be?”

“How’d we get onto this? Shall I open the wine or not?”

“Not. Let’s save it for dinner.”

“Will you still be here at dinner time?”

“I could come back.”

“To return the map?”

“Probably not. We’ll see.”

“Cold salmon and a delicious white wine around 8:00?”

“I’ll be here. And thanks for being so nice about the map.”

“Think nothing of it.”

She watched him leave and whispered after him as he headed to his car, “The real map is in my safety deposit box. And who are you?”

***

Samantha McDermottSamantha McDermott was born in Geneva, Illinois on November 4 in the year of the rabbit. She has also lived in Arizona, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, D.C., California, Oregon, France and North Carolina–in that order. She hates cold weather and has always wanted to live on an island off the coast of Maine. Her various jobs and occupations were not interesting even to her and she was there. She is now settled in North Carolina with a husband she adores, three peculiar cats, a bullfrog and an elusive box turtle. Her best friends include an astrologer, an artist, a Sicilian waif, and a 124-lb German bodybuilder. Samantha offers readers simple escapism. “My goal is to steer clear of social relevancy,” she says. “I hope my book’s’ appeal is lighthearted wit and charm.”

 Click here to buy: The Curious Case of the Chinese Chest

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